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  • Travel's unique SEO requirements: A case study

    Get ahead of local competitors

    In the competitive world of travel, airlines and other travel providers face a unique challenge: they must effectively reach their target audience in multiple markets, often with different languages and search patterns. On websites outside of your home market you are at a natural disadvantage due to the larger flight presence of the local competitor. For this reason, SEO may be more critical here than in your home market. With careful planning and execution, boosting your website’s performance is possible to achieve.

    Recently, we conducted an SEO audit for an airline's translated website. The goal of the audit was to identify areas for improvement and help the airline achieve better visibility in foreign markets. We’ll use the results of one market located in South America.

    The challenges of localized SEO

    Our audit revealed some key weaknesses in the airline's visibility compared to competitors in this market:

    => Compared to the number one competitor, the airline ranks for only 1 out of 7 of the number of analyzed keywords.
    => The airline greatly lagged behind 2 of 3 competitors in the generation of organic traffic. In fact, the largest competitor’s organic traffic was greater by a factor of over 20!

    These results are not surprising, given the challenges of localized SEO. When translating a website, it's easy to fall into the trap of simply using a literal translation. However, this approach often fails to capture the nuances of the target language and the search patterns of local users.

    The importance of keyword research

    To improve its visibility in foreign markets, this airline needs to focus on keywords that are relevant to local visitor searches. Our experience shows that SEO optimization requires keyword research, and these words do not necessarily translate literally from one language to another. Your local competition will have these keywords, and OTAs are heavily invested in SEO localization. This airline has a distinct disadvantage against both players by not matching their competitors’ capabilities at a minimum.

    Four key steps for localized SEO success

    There are four key steps for accomplishing this:

    1. Research each market: This includes a thorough understanding of the local search engines, the types of messaging that are effective and the target audience. For example, will a visitor in another market search on ‘holiday’, ‘vacation’ or ‘furlough’? The differences between these terms in other languages are nuanced and can make or break your search results if not properly researched.

    2. Find ideas from native-language content: Industry websites and publications are key sources to gain insights into the terminology that is relevant to searches in your market, for example, destinations or activities that travellers are most likely to include in their searches. A traveller looking for a deluxe ski destination will use a different set of keywords than someone planning a visit to family members.

    3. Build a keyword map: This map will assign relevant keywords (primary and secondary) to each URL. Your localization team, including copywriters, will use this keyword map to ensure the content they produce is relevant to your target audience in their preferred language.

    4. Keep an eye on performance: Search trends are constantly evolving, and it’s critical that you monitor those trends and adapt your keyword map. You should plan on regularly scheduled reviews. The timing may depend on travel patterns in each of your markets. At a minimum, a review should be done before each local peak period.

    Localized SEO: The key to success

    Localized SEO can help you stay in front of your target market. Driving web traffic to your website and away from the OTAs will save you GDS fees and commissions. More importantly, getting potential buyers directly to your site reduces comparison shopping and gives you the opportunity to start to build a longer-term relationship with these travellers.

    By following these four steps, you can improve your localized SEO and achieve better visibility in foreign markets. This will help you attract more visitors to your website, book more flights, and ultimately generate more revenue.

    - by Steve Arsenault
    Steve is Attached's in-house expert on loyalty strategy and technology.